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Coping Checklist for Patients

Everyone has a different style when it comes to coping with the emotional roller coaster of cancer. This coping checklist can help you learn whether your coping methods are healthy and helpful. It may also help you identify strengths you can build on and weaknesses you can improve.

These statements are linked to healthy coping. Which are true for you?

  • I look for more information when problems come up or I get bad news.
  • I talk with others and share my concerns when I face a problem.
  • I try to lighten up and see the humor in a tough situation.
  • On some days, I just try not to think about my illness.
  • I keep busy to distract myself from being sick.
  • If reliable information shows I need a change in treatment, I do it without delay.
  • Cancer has made me re-examine my life, but there are still people and activities I enjoy.

The more of the above methods you can use, the better you will be able to deal with the challenges of cancer. The ACS Cancer Survivors Network is a way to share coping skills with others, get support, and find “real world” answers to questions about cancer, treatment, and relationships.

Here’s the second part of the coping checklist. These are common ways of coping with the emotional issues that often come with cancer, but you may notice that they aren’t the healthiest ways to cope. Sometimes these methods will drive people away from you just when you need them the most. If any of these statements are true for you, it may be time to look for healthier ways to cope:

  • When I'm upset, alcohol helps calm me down.
  • I wish people would leave me alone.
  • No matter what I do, I can’t sleep.
  • I can’t help thinking I must have done something bad to deserve this.
  • Having cancer is bad enough, but to make matters worse no one knows how to take care of me.
  • I think cancer is my fate. What’s the point of fighting it?

When a person has anger, hopelessness, sadness, emptiness, worry, or other painful emotions most of the day, nearly every day, for longer than 2 weeks, it can be a sign of serious anxiety or depression. Go to the Patient Distress Checklist to learn about the signs of problems that a person with cancer might have and when help may be needed. Keep in mind that emotional problems can and should be treated, just like physical problems.

If you’d like to learn more about stress and coping, see Distress in People With Cancer.

Get support. ACS support programs reach cancer survivors and patients throughout the United States. Practical advice is available online to help patients manage day-to-day and cope with physical and emotional changes. For more information and support, call our National Cancer Information Center toll-free number, 1-800-227-2345. We’re here to help you any time, day or night.


Last Medical Review: 02/03/2016
Last Revised: 02/03/2016